The Palo Alto High School girls’ soccer team (16-2-1, 10-1-1) saw its season come to a close after a heartbreaking loss, 4-3, in penalty kicks to the Archbishop Mitty High School Monarchs (14-2-5, 8-1-3) in the first round of the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs on Saturday.
The defeat marked the final appearance in uniform for Paly’s six seniors: Jacey Pederson, Alison Lu, Ansley Queen, Linnea Carlstrom, Heidi Moeser and Nika Woodfill.
Deadlocked 0-0 after regulation and overtime, the game progressed to penalty kicks. Pederson, sophomore Emily Tomz and junior Natalie Maloney all converted their kicks, but two of Paly’s attempts were saved by Mitty goalkeeper Jessica Lima. The Monarchs made the first four of their five shots, carrying them to a 4-3 victory in penalty kicks.
Paly opened the game with a defensive mindset, playing in a conservative 5-4-1 formation. The Monarchs gave the Vikings an early scare in the eighth minute, when junior Amaya Zabalza hit a rocket that ricocheted off the cross bar.
Over the course of the game, neither team could find offensive rhythm. Paly had a string of good passing series in the midfield in the second half of regulation, but failed to convert on any of them. The Vikings’ defense, anchored by center backs Lu, junior Lauola Amanoni and sophomore Ally Scheve, kept Mitty’s dynamic offense at bay.
The loss was an emotional one for the Vikings, who had remained evenly matched, perhaps even stronger than Mitty for the duration of the game. But Pederson was impressed with her team’s energetic play throughout the course of the match, in spite of the final result.
“I think our work rate was really high for this game,” Pederson said. “Everyone was super pumped for the game so I think everyone came in with a really good mentality.”
Paly head coach Kurt Devlin echoed Pederson’s sentiments, and praised Paly’s efforts during the game.
“I think the girls [Paly] played well and they had a great fighting spirit,” Devlin said. “They really controlled the game for the most part. It’s just a sad way to lose, on PKs.”
“It [the Open Division] is supposed to be eight teams that on any given day can beat one another, and the fact that it went to penalty kicks tells you that they [CCS] made the right selections,” Mitty head coach J.T. Hanley said. “We were just two penalty kicks better than Paly today.”
Though the team will be losing several key seniors for the next year, including University of California, Los Angeles-bound Pederson, and versatile center back Lu, who tied with Pederson for most goals scored on the season for the team, Devlin remains optimistic for the future of Paly soccer.
“They left the program in good shape for the young ones to follow suit,” Devlin said.